Exercise political rights within bounds of the law

  • Published
  • By Major Steve Dubriske
  • Staff Judge Advocate
The rules regulating the political activities of military members and civilian employees can be confusing. The rules are derived from the Hatch Act (5 United States Code Sections 7321-7325) and the Joint Ethics Regulation, with additional guidance found in Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 and Air Force Instruction 51-902. The rules are confusing because the restrictions can change depending on whether you are an active duty member, reservist or civilian employee.
As the November General Election is fast approaching, now is a good time to provide the members of Team Vance with some general rules regarding political activities. Please be advised the rules discussed in this article are not all inclusive, so it is important you seek specific guidance when engaged in political activities.
A military member on active duty may engage in the following types of political activity:
n Register, vote, and express a personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces.
n Promote and encourage other military members to exercise their voting rights.
n Join a political club and attend meetings when not in uniform.
n Serve as an election official (requires prior approval).
n Sign a petition for specific legislative action or to place a candidate's name on an official election ballot, if the signing does not obligate the member to engage in partisan political activity and is done as a private citizen.
n Write a letter to a newspaper expressing the member's personal views on issues or candidates, if such action is not part of an organized campaign.
n Make monetary contributions to a political organization, party, or committee favoring a particular candidate or slate of candidates.
n Display a political sticker on the member's private vehicle.
A military member on active duty may not engage in the following types of political activity:
n Use of official authority to interfere with an election, affect the course of an election, or solicit votes or contributions for a particular candidate or issue.
n Be a candidate or hold civil office (except in limited circumstances).
n Participate in partisan political management or campaigns, or make public speeches in the course thereof.
n Solicit or make a campaign contribution to another member of the Armed Forces or to a civilian officer or employee of the United States (such as the President who serves as the Commander-in-Chief) for promoting a political objective or cause.
n Serve in any official capacity or be listed as a sponsor of a partisan political club.
n Speak before a partisan political gathering of any kind for promoting a partisan political party or candidate.
n March or ride in a partisan political parade.
Although the rules for civilian employees are arguably not as stringent as those for military members, civilian employees are also restricted in their political activities.
Civilian employees can generally engage in the following activities:
n Display a political sticker on the member's private vehicle.
n Serve as a member or officer of a political party or partisan group.
n Contribute money to a candidate, political party, or other political organization.
n Serve as a delegate for a political party convention.
n Run for office in a nonpartisan election.
n Endorse or oppose a specific candidate in a political advertisement, broadcast or campaign literature.
n Participate in election-related activities such as serving as an election judge or clerk.
Civilian employees may not engage in the following activities:
n Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election.
n Solicit or receive political contributions (exception for some local elections or when acting on behalf of a Federal labor organization).
n Engage in political activity while on duty, while in a government office, or when using a government vehicle.
If you have specific questions about a political activity you are going to engage in prior to the November elections, please feel free to contact the base legal office at 213-7404.